Clothing maintenance – you may not realize it but taking proper care of your clothes is essential.
You've heard the horror stories.
$200 flannel trousers in the dryer? Now TWO sizes too small.
Machine washing dress shirts? Ripped at the seams by the cycle.
Ruined clothing, gentlemen.
What are the culprits?
- Washing machines
The very tools that make clothing maintenance easy are also responsible for wrecking your wardrobe.
But don't worry – there are practices you can incorporate which will protect and preserve your clothes.
Here are 5 ways to avoid ruining your favorite clothes:
- Don't over-wash clothes.
- Use the dryer sparingly.
- Use ironing and steam properly.
- Fix clothing issues immediately.
- Remove stains as soon as possible.
Below, I go into more details for each of these 5 simple ways to keep your clothes looking new. Some of these tips may seem obvious, but if you follow all of them, your clothes will continue to remain in top-notch condition.
1. Don't Over Wash Clothes
Select the setting on your washing machine that allows for the least soaking and fewest spin cycles.
For delicate fabrics, use a gentle cycle which cuts down on the wear and tear inflicted by your washing machine.
Reduce fading: wash your clothes inside out.
Turn clothing inside-out before putting it in the washing machine. Spin cycles can be hard on clothes – it is much better for the inside of your clothes to face the brunt than the outside.
Here are a few other ways you can ensure your wash cycle doesn't ruin your fabrics:
- Spot Clean: Avoid washing an entire garment to remove a stain. Instead, gently dab the stained spot with detergent and place it face down on a paper towel for a while.
- Hand-Wash: Delicate fabrics should be hand-washed. Hand-washing saves water and prevents your clothes from excessive spinning inside a washing machine.
- Use Less Detergent: Some detergents use harsh chemicals which can fade, shrink and tear delicate fabrics. Use as little detergent as possible. Powdered detergents can be harsher on clothes so opt for a liquid one instead.
- Read the care label: Sounds obvious. You'd be surprised how many men don't do this. Make sure you can place your clothes in a washer in the first place.
Want to know how to wash a men's dress shirt? Read our guide.
2. Don't Overuse The Dryer
Do you use a machine to dry all your clothes?
The heat from the dryer is probably ruining the fabrics, the elastic and the metal parts of your clothing.
How many times have you shrunk your favorite sweater in the dryer? Using hot air to dry your clothes can shrink them as easily as using hot water to wash them.
The dryer can shrink and fade your clothes. If you must use the dryer, do so on a low heat setting.
Get clothes out of the washer and hang them out to dry as soon as possible to prevent small wrinkles and to allow them to air.
If you have a backyard or outdoor space, buy a clothesline and allow your clothes to dry naturally outside. Consider purchasing a collapsible drying rack for clothes if space is an issue.
The only clothing items that I would recommend placing in a dryer are undergarments, gym clothes, outdoor workwear, and jeans.
It's best to air dry all your other clothes.
3. Be Careful With The Iron
Proper ironing is essential to good clothing maintenance. It gives you wrinkle-free trousers and crisp shirts with a strong shape. Ironing is the key to preventing fabric roll – when shirt and jacket collars lose their crispness with age.
But irons also have a dark side. They can:
- Soil your clothes (rust stains from a dirty iron)
- Burn your clothes (if you pick the wrong setting)
- Permanently stain your clothes (heat sets stains into the fabric)
Make sure you've got the right settings on the iron before placing the hot plate on fabrics. Damage from excess heat can burn fabric or leave unsightly permanent marks on the cloth.
Iron clothes when they are still slightly damp – the water helps ease out the creases.
Be careful while ironing delicate fabrics. The heat from an iron is too harsh for fabrics like silk (or silk blends) and can leave marks if you're not careful.
For delicate clothing maintenance, try a handheld clothes steamer instead of a regular iron. This takes the wrinkles out of cloth without making contact with the fabric. Just be careful not to over-steam or steam directly over the stitching. This can blow the seams holding your clothes together (especially with blazers, jackets and sport coats).
As a last resort, try hanging the clothing item on a hanger in a steamy bathroom to ease out the wrinkles.
Always use a clean ironing board. It helps to have washable iron board covers.
Never iron dirty clothes: Stains can become permanent if you press on them with a hot iron.
Getting your clothes dry cleaned professionally? Try to find cleaners that have existed in the same place and under the same name for many years.
Blindly trusting a company to handle your clothes is risky business.
4. Fix Small Clothing Maintenance Issues Immediately
You may occasionally snag your new shirt on something sharp or lose a button.
I advise you to fix these small issues immediately before they turn into bigger problems.
I've lost count of the times someone has asked me, ‘Antonio, how do I sew a button?'.
A small repair like sewing on a button before it rips or breaks will save money in the future.
Save time and money: learn how to fix minor issues yourself.
If you aren't comfortable doing this kind of clothing maintenance yourself, it's worth your time to look for a tailor who is willing to help repair any damages or make alterations to new clothes.
A good tailor can save you from having to buy new items of clothing by keeping your old favorites in top condition for many years.
- Buttons & Zippers: You can do this at home with a basic sewing kit. It takes almost no skill to sew or tighten them.
- Loose lining: If the lining on trousers or jackets becomes loose or if they are looking worn out, take them to the tailor to have them replaced. Don't wait until you have sizable holes on the inside of your jacket.
- Tapering: Over time, jackets can lose their shape because of poor clothing maintenance or perhaps you have lost weight! Waist suppression brings the waist of a jacket in to create a pronounced “V” shape over your torso.
- Altering Length: Ensure your trouser legs are the right length. A little cloth to work with is sufficient for a tailor to alter the length to make sure the trouser isn't too short or drooping all over the floor.
- Holes: Small holes, especially around the seams, are relatively easy to fix. Take your clothing to a tailor before the holes get bigger.
- Cuff & collar fray: Clothes tend to wear out earliest and worst at the edges. Damaged fabric can be hidden by folding the cuff over and stitching it into place, creating a new edge. Note that this will shorten the sleeve or leg slightly.
5. Remove Stains Immediately
Spilled coffee on your favorite pair of trousers? Or red wine on a white dress shirt?
Stained your clothes? Act immediately: once the stain forms a chemical bond with the fabric, it becomes permanent.
If you're out and about, get to a restroom and dab water gently onto the stained area with tissue paper, paper towels, toilet paper, etc. until the stain is thoroughly saturated. Avoid applying pressure or heat which speeds up the bonding process of the stain.
Once home, treat immediately with the proper solvent if it is available. Various types of solvents are discussed below, but water is always your first solution!
- Salt: Easy to access, salt can be applied on top of the wet stain to give the chemicals something to leech into. Effective on red wine, sweat patches, and blood stains.
- Detergent: Laundry or dish detergents are effective in removing food and grease stains.
- Vinegar/Lemon Juice: The mild acids from these solutions are effective against tea and coffee stains, grass stains, and tape or glue stains.
- Oxidizing bleaches: Hydrogen peroxide is the most commonly used bleach to remove color and makeup stains.
- Mineral spirits: Use for stubborn marks like tar or asphalt stains. These are too strong for delicate fabrics.
- Glycerin: Draws out ink and dye stains. Most commercial stain sticks are a combination of glycerin and detergent.
- Digestants/enzyme cleaners: Highly effective on organic and odor stains such as pet urine, egg yolk, sweat, and blood.
Be sure to read our article, 25 Most Common Stains & How To Treat Them.
Take care of your clothes and make them last longer. Putting some extra effort into clothing maintenance can really extend the lifetime of your wardrobe. With regular care and by avoiding the mistakes outlined above, your clothes will be in great shape for years!
Click below to watch the video – 10 Awesome Clothing Care Hacks